Henry Mullen’s Journal:
Day 1(Monday, May 2nd)
I’m sitting in the airlock, ready to go. Ready to walk unprotected into the atmosphere of Raphael. I suppose I should be nervous. I’m actually not. I’m exciting, even anxious to get going. I thought briefly about giving written instructions about what to do if I take three steps and keel over dead. I wanted my body to be left on Raphael. Then I began to think of microbes and whatever I’d be leaving. So I started to write instructions about not leaving my body to decompose on Raphael. Then I thought the whole thing was stupid. Tim Bowmen is my second in command. He’s good. He knows what he’s doing. He’ll decide what’s best, and besides which, I have absolutely no intention of keeling over. I just got the OK to go – write more later.
I’ve walked maybe a quarter of mile from the ship. I can just see the tip of the FM transmitter that was raised after landing. I wanted to give my first impressions, but waited a little while. I wanted to be out sight of the crew, before I stopped to write. I’m glad I did. When I look back toward the ship I can see the sun. Bright morning Sun on Raphael: a vague hint of brightness low in the sky obscured by clouds. I’ve observed it before, but it’s different in the ship where the artificial light hides just how dull it is, just sitting there. I suppose I knew that the Sun never comes out on Raphael, but somehow knowing it and experiencing it are totally different things. It’s very cold. I keep thinking, maybe if the Sun was shining, but of course the Sun is shining. I think I’m going to miss the Sun more than I ever realized. The grass goes on forever. I’ll walk some more.
Stopping again. I’m freezing. I’m soaked right to the bone. Everything’s so damn gray. Gray sky, gray clouds, gray grass, gray dirt, gray sun. I’m trying so hard not to say I hate this place. I know why. It would be like betraying that blue-green world out there, which you can’t even see in the sky through the clouds. I don’t know why I feel that way. I’m a guest I guess. It wouldn’t be polite. I’m stopping for the day. Can’t wait to get into the dry tent. Can’t write anyway; my hands are shaking.
Tried to sleep. Still up. My sleeping bag’s wet. It’s so damp. Think dry thoughts.
Day 2 (Tuesday, May 3rd)
Not much sleep last night. I just talked to Tim on the Radio. I wasn’t polite. It’s not Tim. If you find my rotting corpse one day … I just forgot it’s freezing on this damn moon. My corpse won’t rot, or will it? Water doesn’t freeze here. Well anyway, I’m sorry Tim; I didn’t mean it. It’s just so damn cold and WET. While I’m on the subject of water, I think I made a mistake. I should’ve asked someone else to taste the water. I was so busy looking for scientific evidence that the water wasn’t pure H2O that I overlooked the obvious: it doesn’t taste like water. The human ability to taste is a perfectly acceptable scientific tool. It might be hard to quantify. It tastes three. Well, how ‘bout it taste sweet. How sweet? Like juice. What kind’ve juice – apple, orange? How about the kind that don’t taste like water? Maybe I need a poet, someone who can describe it better. I’ll think that over for a while. In the mean time, I’m off. I still intend to get to the forest in the next couple of days.
Been walking all day. It’s so disorienting, all this gray. It kind’ve blurs together. There’s nothing to fix your eyes on. I guess it’s like getting snow blind. And I forgot something about last night.
The night just sort of creeps up on you here. It never gets really dark. It reminds me of the snow. The real snow, not the green stuff we got in New York. When we went to Antarctica to test our resistance to the cold before we left the earth; it’s like that snow. I was always amazed at how light the night was. It’s light like that here, only it’s not snow. It’s the gray: the gray clouds, the gray grass, the gray sand. It’s odd. I never noticed it when I was staying in the ship.
My second day walking through the grass is over. The tent is up and I’m getting ready to crawl into my cold wet sleeping bag.
I just made an interesting discovery. I had to – well urinate. I sat for a while attempting to ignore this. The thought of going out of my tent, wasn’t a pleasant one. Anyway, that’s a battle you’re never going to win. So I got out of bed. The thought of pulling on my soaking wet jeans was also not appealing. So I figured, who’s gonna see me? So I went out naked. Damn if it wasn’t the first time since I left the airlock that I wasn’t violently shaking from the cold. It wasn’t exactly pleasant. It was definitely better. Well, as the saying goes, “sometimes less is more.” I wish I’d brought a pair of shorts, or swimming trunks I guess. Tomorrow I’ll be walking around in my briefs.
Day 3 (Wednesday, May 4th)
I must admit, I felt a bit foolish when I headed off today. The thought of stumbling across one of the rovers was alternatively hilarious and terrifying. After going thirty minutes, I took off my shorts. Naked is better. I wish I had sandals. Where my boots rub against my legs and feet, it gets irritated. When I stopped I removed my boots. My feet were all white and wrinkly. The rest of me is better. I’m not shivering. I’m cold but boy, what a difference. This is gonna make an interesting report.
I tried going barefoot. In some places, at the very base of the grass, there are little sharp spots. Not unlike, well, grass on the earth. I hurt my foot. Not bad. It wasn’t cut or anything, but, to put it mildly, I suddenly became very concerned. Frankly, I was terrified that I might have broken the skin. It suddenly dawned on me, that we’re really not on the Earth. And we have no idea what’s in that soil. This place, this moon, it lulls you into a sense of familiarity, of home. It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s hazy. I’ve been cold and wet on the earth. I’ve lived through hazy days. I’m walking through a field of grass. It’s the wrong color but it’s grass. Anyone who ever laid down on a picnic blanket and had that little sharp tuft of grass poke through at them, knows what just happened to my foot. My foot’s fine. So I started to walk on. I found myself trying to walk around the grass. I gave it up. I put my boots back on. I’m going buck naked with combat boots. I’m not going to analyze my phobia of the unknown. I’m just writing it down.
I walked a full day, a real full day’s walking. My first. It really does make a difference. I just finished setting up my tent. I’ve been wondering whether, it might not be better to sleep under stars, well under the sky. I think I’ll try the floor of my tent today.
Day 4 (Thursday, May 5th)
I discovered that if you take a blanket, not cloth but a plasticy one, and dry it against something, it stays fairly dry for quite a while. I think I’ll continue to sleep on the floor of the tent. I used a polyester blanket which I dried several times during the night on my clothes. It’s not like I’m using the clothes for anything else. It feels like I slept for eighteen hours. I have a clock. I know I only slept for seven and that I woke up and had to dry off my blanket three times. I feel almost decadent. I haven’t told my crew about the clothing situation. The thought of it makes me laugh. One more day. I’ll tell them tonight when I check in. I’m thinking of the look on Tim’s face. I wonder what Rolm will say. I have trouble picturing reserved Rolm going naked through the grass.
Day 5 (Friday, May 6th)
Last night before going to sleep, I told Tim about not wearing any clothing. He asked me to repeat myself. I did. He then asked if I just said, “I’m going naked?” I told him I did and that I was. I heard someone, I think it was Rachel MacKenzie ask Tim in the background whether I just said I was going naked. I laughed myself to sleep. I would have loved to be there, a fly on the wall while they were discussing whether or not I lost my mind.
Once again I had a luxurious sleep. If I make time like I did yesterday I might make it to the forest tonight.
Been making good time. I forgot about my plans for the day. I’m refilling canteens with water today. I had completely forgotten when I came to the stream. Well I won’t make the forest by tonight. That’s ok. I’ll take a leisurely walk tomorrow. Today I set up my portable lab. I don’t suspect there is anything wrong with the water from this stream, but even so I’m going to test it first.
The water’s tested, “needs more analysis.” Just kidding. Pure H2O. Just what I suspected. Well here goes. Sweet wonderful, just like juice. When you walk on Raphael and breath in the air, you get the same taste in your mouth as when you drink the water. The air’s filled with water vapor, so why not.
Tim called up. No doubt he wanted to make one last check to see if I was either joking about clothes or lost my mind. Well at least I convinced him that I wasn’t joking. I told him he’d have to get past it. I said, I wasn’t going to give anybody orders to not wear clothes. But I told him, if you were out in this stuff you’d be free balling it too. I used that actual term by the way. I rather like it.
By the time I tore down the portable lab, it really was too late to do much. I removed my boots and crossed the stream. I thought I should do it today, just in case I fell. It wasn’t very hard. The current was barely moving and the bottom was nice soft Raphael sand-soil. I set up my tent and just sat for a while. I head off tomorrow.
A quick note before sleep. I haven’t had a really decent shower for over three years. Using a damp cloth to clean yourself, like we did on the ship, isn’t fun from the start and gets worse. I decided I wanted a nice bath in the stream. It was very cold but when I got out I felt clean for the first time since leaving the earth.
Day 6 (Saturday, May 7th)
I didn’t write this morning. I really wanted to get moving. Two hours later, I’m in the woods. I’ve been looking around for a while. The trees, for lack of a better name, were very disappointing when I first got here. I’m glad I took the time to set up my tent first before I started to write. It gave me time to get used to them.
I was so looking forward to leaving the drab gray grasslands behind. The trees are the same gray. Maybe a touch darker, but not enough to make any difference. I’ve seen pictures, taken by the rovers. I don’t know why I thought they were different. I got my portable computer out, opened a picture and zoomed in on a trunk of a tree. I held the screen right up to the bark of an actual tree. I can’t say the color was off. Somehow, in my mind, the trees had brown earth tree bark. Maybe something in me needed them to be like that. Well I guess that’s over. We really are across the solar system. I’m looking back toward the gray prairie grass and thought, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” I guess I’m getting a little stir-crazy. I was planning to stay out for a few weeks. I’m not going to. I’ll sleep under the trees tonight. Once you give them a bit of a chance they really do seem quite majestic. Tomorrow I’ll head back to the ship. I’ll do it double time. There’s work to be done.
I’ve been thinking more about the water. I remembered how eloquent Rachel MacKenzie was when she took the first step onto the surface of Raphael. I was thinking of asking her to taste the water -- my poet. I suddenly find that I’ve lost patience. I almost asked her to start drinking the water now. It’s not really something you can ask someone over the radio. We really don’t know what it will do. I’ve had no ill effects, but I don’t really know what the long term implications might be. For all I know, I’m already dead. It just might take six months or six years before we know it for certain. I need to talk to her. And in private. It’s not a thing you can order someone. I know she’ll say yes, but it has to be her decision: no pressure, none at all.
Thank you for reading the beginning of
In theShadow of the Lily.
Other sections will be added soon.